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Jewish leaders in Germany slam Holocaust omission from citizenship test

By Asaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent

Monday 14 July 2008

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Last update - 16:55 13/07/2008

Jewish community leaders in Germany last week criticized the interior ministry’s planned citizenship exam for new immigrants, which features a questionnaire that does not make any mention of the Holocaust.

Imitating a trend taking hold in other European countries, Germany will require immigrants who wish to obtain citizenship to pass a 33-question “proficiency exam.” The new policy is slated to go into effect this coming September.

Stephen Kramer, a senior official of the Central Council of Jews, told the British Telegraph newspaper that omitting any Holocaust-related questions reflects a “strange understanding of history.”

Kramer said he was puzzled that Judaism was not mentioned as one of four possible answers to the question, “Which religion exerted the most influence on German and European culture?”

The initiative was introduced by the German interior ministry, under the stewardship of minister Wolfgang Schäuble of the ruling Christian Democratic Union party, as part of its policy of assimilating foreign-born Germans into society. The list, and the wording, of the questions that are to appear on the exam has angered the heads of the Jewish community as well as those within the sizeable Turkish population in the country.

Among the easier questions on the exam: “What are the colors of the German flag?” (Black, red, and gold); “Who composed the ’Ode to Joy’?” (Beethoven) Some of the more controversial questions include: "In Germany, people can freely criticize the government due to: A. Freedom of religion; B. The obligation to pay taxes; C. The right to vote; D. Freedom of speech; and “What activity do Germans usually do on Easter?” (Painting eggs)

The head of the Turkish community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, also criticized the framing of the questions, saying they do not test the taker’s knowledge but rather “to some extent, they test values.”

The exam was written by a team of experts from the Humboldt University of Berlin and was administered to students. It is just one of other requirements that would-be citizens must fulfill. Applicants must also demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the German language and they must be free of a criminal record. An estimated seven million immigrants live in Germany, the overwhelming majority of them from Turkey.